I had the great fortune to be booked for a wedding in Hampton Court, London in October 2012, this wasn't a totally random affair as I’d known the groom for some years (I was actually the best man at his last wedding, but that’s another story). The booking did throw up a few things I had to consider.
The main issue was equipment transportation. I would be flying over the day before the big event, so I set about booking a flight to the closest airport (Heathrow in this case) with the cheapest operator I could find flying out of Belfast. The next thing was to find the cheapest hotel in the area, closest to the reception venue. I’d assumed that the place would be booked out by guests, so I didn’t even bother checking (knowing that the bride was from Scotland and the groom from Nottingham, there would obviously be some travelling guests looking for places to stay) the Carlton Mitre Hotel was where they’d booked their ceremony to be held at. So I therefore opted for a Premier Inn in Kempton Park (£90 per night) which was only a few miles away.
I then returned to the main issue at hand, which was transporting my equipment in such a manner that it would never leave my side. After all, I didn’t want to turn up to the wedding with nothing buy my iPhone4 in my hand, in the hope of capturing the days events while my cameras were on a flight to Timbuktu.
I have a great Lowepro Nova 200 camera bag, which I can just about squeeze in my Canon 5D & 40D, along with the 4 lenses I usually operate with, and the two flash units and trust me, I took me some time to work out that little jigsaw puzzle so I could get everything to fit inside (snuggly). However, this didn’t leave any space for even a pair of socks, never mind a weekends worth of clothing. So what to do..?
Calumet in Belfast was my first port of call for a solution. I wanted something I could safely get my camera gear into, that would also allow me to stuff in a few tops, socks, boxers, wash kit, pair of jeans or maybe just the suit I’d planned to wear. I couldn’t find a single thing. I’d considered wearing my camera gear over, I’ve a CameraSlingers strapping system, but that would just look nuts, and make me a highly attractive mugging victim. There was nothing there that suited my needs. Nightmare… There was no way I was squeezing more out of the budget for hold luggage, just for an couple of nights worth clothing.
The solution was this: I would fly over wearing the suit I would be wearing on the big day. I would wrap my camera gear in two tops (one for the night arrived which I’d change into, one for the travel back) and one pair of jeans. I’d wear the same shoes for the whole weekend (sourced shoes that go with both the suit and a pair of jeans – (Gok Wan eat your heart out)), socks and undies packed and toiletries included all in a cabin sized flight bag, that I already owned. RESULT..!
Best Man and the Groom.Giving it full on 'Catalogue Men, Scotland Style' outside the Carlton Mitre Hotel in London.
Having arrived in London by plane, then getting on a few different buses, then a taxi to the Premier Inn I realised that a few miles on Google Maps can infact cost you a bloody fortune in transport. What I should have done was check to see if the Carlton Mitre Hotel had any rooms, pay the extra (which I recall was £60 per night more than I was paying) as this would have been less hassle and cheaper than the solution I was going to be enduring over the next 3 days.
We’d arranged to have a meeting that afternoon (once I’d gotten myself sorted) to meet with the hotel’s conference manager, who gave us a run down of the room layout, the order of service and some nice spots for photography.
The room in which the whole thing was to happen was a light and airy conservatory, which overlooked the Thames with a wooden patio area which took you to the waters edge. It didn’t look that impressive the night before if I’m honest, but we were promised we wouldn’t recognise the place come Saturday afternoon.
The local surroundings, restaurants and bars are amazing, you wouldn’t think you were in a bustling capital city, as after our meeting we headed off (the B&G and Best Man) for a quiet meal in a local Italian place (Pizza Express) following which we scouted some areas to get some ideas for the ‘location shots’ after the ceremony.
I’d decided that evening, that I was definitely going to be using the Bridge over the Thames, and Hampton Court Pier for the bridal party images. You could see even in the early evening light, that this place was a play ground for a photographer.
The Groom, best man (his brother) and I headed into town that evening, a sort of mini stag do if you will, as I hadn’t been able to fly over for the official stag do, though we agreed there was to be a firm ground rule, “No over doing it”. I had a wedding to shoot the following afternoon, and he too had a wedding to go to! I am after all, a professional. The evening was great, we didn’t over do it, though we did end up going in the opposite direction to where I was staying (more taxi money) and the taxi driver did take me to the other side of where I wanted to be because he wasn’t long in the job and put in the wrong hotel (£50 taxi rip off) in his GPS. How was I to know where the hell he was taking me? Ice Cream Anyone?Can you believe the ice cream man even charged me for this?
The following morning (and another taxi ride) I arrived at the hotel where I set about with the the bridal preparations shots in the bridal suit, which had a beautiful four poster bed air conditioning, and a stunning view of the palace. I then met the boys next door for a pre-wedding tipple (I had a soft drink by the way) before heading over to the hotel again in preparation for the wedding service.
The conference manager was right, the place looked spectacular! It was finished to perfection, the staff did an amazing job getting it ready, with a friendly and fun registrar who conducted the service, the wedding went without a hitch.
I did use the bridge for a couple of shots (The Bride loved the attention from passing motorists (who wouldn’t?)), the sun was shining brightly like it was a summer’s day, this was the end of October remember! We all couldn’t believe our luck in terms of the weather. I managed to sneak the couple into the grounds of the Palace to get a few pictures away from the main kiosk for paying, I needn’t have worried as the staff offered to let us in for some staged shots. It was a fantastic shoot.
What I’ve learned from this trip is this:
If your interested in booking me for your wedding outside of Northern Ireland, please feel free to get in touch for a quote.